Yuna Returns with Her Smooth R&B and Emotional Sincerity at Heritage SF The Malaysian singer-songwriter performed at Heritage SF in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — In an obscure warehouse tucked away in San Francisco’s Dogpatch district, the smooth R&B musical stylings and feel-good sentiments from Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna filled the room.
The warehouse and live music venue, complete with a dedicated hallway of neon art signs from local artists, with local vendors selling their clothing, wares and goods, brought in over 5,000 attendees to celebrate the city’s first Heritage SF.
Now, it’s been a while since we’ve heard from Yuna. An extremely intimate and personable performer, her live shows are captivating. She engages with the crowd as her smooth hip-hop beats, keyboards and synths fill the room. Her voice, breathy and soft as she sings about love and ex-lovers, is cool and satisfying. Above all, her lyrics are incredibly disarming.
In songs like “Lanes,” she dismantles an ex-lover’s arguments when she sings, “Why do you keep telling me you’re self-destructive? / I’m getting tired of your lies and your excuses.” She then goes on to say, “If you’ve got a good girl then appreciate it.”
Adorned in a wide-brimmed hat and shimmery-gold blouse from head-to-toe, Yuna’s style always impresses — and it fits her sound. Her Chapters album almost reads like the pages of a diary as genuine and emotionally sincere moments are told through soft and dreamy ambient R&B synths and electronics. Her breakout hit “Crush,” which features R&B sensation Usher, called for a crowd that lifted up their phones and swayed in pure bliss as the simple guitar riff followed when she sang, “I feel a little rush / I think I’ve got a little crush on you.”
The rest of the crowd followed: “I can feel my heart singing / La la la la, la la la, la laaa”
Although the sound was uneven in different parts of the warehouse (I feel bad for listeners hearing her for the first time on stage left, as the sound seemed to be centered directly toward the front of the stage and made Yuna sound offbeat), Yuna seemed to be getting back into the groove of performing. With a simple drumbeat machinist beside her and guitar player, Yuna’s music didn’t have the full sound we’d expect from her earlier material. Still, she embraced the stage with a sense of ease and impeccable grace.
She opened her set with her early single and the song that put her on the map internationally in 2012, “Lullabies,” and sang songs from her 2013 Nocturnal album such as “Lights And Camera” and “I Want You Back.” For her encore, she surprised listeners with a potential newcomer for her upcoming album.
“Coming from Malaysia, this has always been my dream,” Yuna said, “to make music and perform. Thank you everyone for supporting new artists like myself, and new asian artists.”
As an independent musician in Malaysia for much of her life, her last album Chapters broke through internationally in 2016 when it made the Top 10 of Billboard‘s Best R&B Albums of the Year, alongside artists like Beyonce, Rihanna, Frank Ocean and John Legend. That album was also nominated in the Top 20 Best R&B Albums of 2016 by Rolling Stone.
With other artists such as P-Lo, Anjali, Year Of The Ox, The Flavr Blue and Clara on the lineup, Yuna’s addition to the showcase was special. Although the crowd seemed to be a lot smaller than I expected, there were a few diehards in the audience who made sure to show Yuna some love.
As Yuna announced she is working on a new album, the crowd couldn’t help but cheer.
As Yuna’s Chapters album felt like an emotionally mature and sincere album about her experiences with an ex-love and “Unrequited Love,” we can’t help but be curious for what she has to offer in her new album. But one thing’s for sure: since she is now happily married, we can (almost) be positive there will be no ex-lovers here.
The event, presented by Boba Guys and produced by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and International Secret Agents (ISA), was a free music festival produced along with friends from Identity LA. San Francisco, which is home to over a million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, just behind Los Angeles and New York, rang in the 40th anniversary of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) this May in style.